After a timid start in France, telemedicine experienced a considerable boom in 2020 with the Covid-19 health crisis. A new type of medical consultation which attracts more and more French people, but also raises questions in France. This is why the “Agence du Numérique en Santé” (ANS) in partnership with Odoxa has decided to carry out 3 barometers between the end of 2019 and the end of 2020 to assess the point of view of the French population on various aspects of telemedicine.
Methodology of the study
Three surveys were thus carried out on a sample of around 2,000 to 3,000 French people and around 500 healthcare professionals.
- 1st study carried out at the end of November 2019 and published in January 2020
- 2nd study carried out at the end of June 2020 and published in October 2020
- 3rd study carried out at the end of November 2020 and published in January 2021
1/ French people’s knowledge on the different dimensions of telemedicine
Carried out in November 2019, the first study showed that the various telemedicine procedures were already well known by the French. In fact, during this period, 79% of respondents knew about telemedicine and 82% about teleconsultation. On the other hand, tele-expertise, medical telesurveillance and tele-care are concepts that are less well-known in France. With confinement, knowledge in telemedicine has largely progressed and the French are increasingly mastering these concepts. In November 2020, a year later, 86% of French people knew what telemedicine was and 92% what teleconsultation was. Regarding the other dimensions, they were still less well known since 54% knew what tele-expertise was, 64% medical telesurveillance and 40% tele-care.
Another important aspect: knowledge in terms of price and reimbursement of teleconsultations. This has improved over time, since in November 2019, 74% of French people knew that teleconsultation acts were reimbursed by Health Insurance against 84% in June 2020 and 92% in November 2020. The study shows a progression of 18 points in just one year. We also observe this phenomenon on the knowledge of the price of a teleconsultation compared to a classic consultation. From now on, 78% of French people know it is the same price, an increase of 22 points over one year.
2/ Perception and general opinion of the French on telemedicine
With 63% at the end of 2019 and 73% at the end of 2020, the survey showed that the French have a good opinion of telemedicine. With an increase of 13 points, France is the most positive country in Europe when it comes to telemedicine.
If telemedicine is well perceived by the French, it has both positive and negative points. Among the positive aspects given by the French respondents are:
- Saving time for physicians and patients
- Effective way to fight against medical deserts
- Makes life easier for patients
On the negative side, the study identifies:
- Dehumanization of the relationship between physician and patient
- Risks of hacking into health data
- Higher risk of medical errors
After one year, the positive points have progressed and now outweigh the negatives ones. However, the negative points should not be overlooked since the risk of dehumanizing the relationship is the main reason given by the French who refuse teleconsultation.
3/ Use of telemedicine in France
In fact, the practice of telemedicine has exploded in a year. At the end of 2019, only 6% of French people had experimented teleconsultation compared to 18% in June 2020, i.e., a threefold increase in just six months. However, the study reveals a declain in progression after the first confinement (only +2 points since June). France is thus “behind” compared to other European countries such as Spain (55%) or the United Kingdom (42%).
While the use of telemedicine remains low in France and progress is slowing down for patients, this is not the case for physicians. Indeed, on the side of physicians and in particular general practitioners, telemedicine continues to develop. At the end of 2020, 69% (including 82% of general practitioners) had carried out a teleconsultation with a patient. The study thus leads to the conclusion that physicians are a real driving force for the development of telemedicine in France.
Regarding the types of teleconsultations, the study highlights a top 5 of the most suitable reasons according to the French:
- To ask a question
- To request an administrative document
- To renew a prescription
- To discuss the results of additional tests (biology or radiology)
- Mild symptoms
Telemedicine is developing slowly in France, but it still seems to be becoming part of the habits of physicians and patients. In general, the French think that teleconsultation is useful for managing simple, repetitive or administrative situations.
4/ Level of satisfaction of the French towards telemedicine
In France, 88% of people who have experimented teleconsultation are satisfied, including 39% “very satisfied”. In one year, we have seen an increase in the satisfaction of the French by 17 points. France is the second most satisfied country in Europe in terms of telemedicine.
The reasons for satisfaction relate on the one hand to the notion of necessity since teleconsultation was one of the only means of obtaining a consultation during confinement and on the other hand on the technical level, in other words, the proper functioning of the tools and the quality of the internet connection. In addition, 14% of respondents indicated that they were satisfied because they were comfortable and that the teleconsultation was similar to a face-to-face consultation.
Conversely, the reasons for dissatisfaction concern technical problems encountered during the teleconsultation such as connection problems or difficulty hearing the doctor. Also, some people felt embarrasssed and unconfortable during the teleconsultation while for others it was difficult to be alone in front of the doctor, without outside help.
5/ Prospects for the development of telemedicine
With 69% of French people who believe that the use of telemedicine has made it possible to better manage the health crisis, France is among the countries in Europe most convinced of the positive impact of telemedicine. In addition, the French (70%) are also the most numerous in Europe to think that telemedicine will help us to manage a new health crisis. Also, the French (69%) are among the European people most demanding from the public authorities to invest more to develop the use of telemedicine.
Finally, the study reveals that physicians have a role to play in the uptake of telemedicine by patients and in the future development of teleconsultation. In fact, 70% of French people say that they would follow the advice of their doctor if they offered them a teleconsultation.
France still has some cards to play to encourage the adoption of telemedicine by the French. First, we must consider dissatisfaction and work on optimizing tools for both physicians and patients. Secondly, public authorities as well as health professionals must communicate with the French on the functioning and use of telemedicine. Finally, for the French, it is essential to reassure them about data security and for doctors, to equip themselves with secure and efficient tools.
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